Board of Directors


 Gary Heaton, President

Gary and his wife Judy grew up in Minnesota and have lived in North Dakota since 1997.They have two adult children and four grandchildren. Gary received his Master of Divinity degree from Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque Iowa, and has completed an additional 1200 hours of clinical pastoral education. He is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. From 2000-2008 Gary was called as the pastor/ developer at Living Water Lutheran Church in Mandan. He also served as Executive Director for AID Inc from 2004-2008. Gary currently serves as a full time chaplain at Sanford Health in Bismarck.

Gary takes seriously the mandate from Luke 12:48  "From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded." He believes that everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect no matter their circumstance, and being able to assist families who are in need of shelter is one way to help them regain their dignity. In addition to serving on the Welcome House Board, Gary has been involved in a prison ministry as a volunteer at the North Dakota State penitentiary since 1997, is a member of the Mandan Dacotah Lions and a past officer of the Council of United Way Agencies. In his spare time Gary enjoys traveling with his wife, spending time with family, golfing, reading, watching movies, biking and writing.


 Babete Anderson, Vice President

Babete is a Public Affairs Officer for the US Forest Service.  She studied at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Arizona.  Babete has two adult children.  She has been actively involved in community food banks, charity events and being an advocate for those involved in domestic violence.  She is thankful for having the opportunity to be on the Board for the Welcome House.


Kenda Johnson Kenda Crane, Secretary

Kenda Johnson is a resident of Bismarck and currently teaches third grade at Standing Rock Elementary in Fort Yates.   She has been teaching for 13 years.  Kenda is a graduate of Trinity Bible College.  She has great involvement in education and is a mentor for the North Dakota Teacher Support System.  
Kenda enjoys spending time with her daughter Chloe.   She is actively involved in barrel racing as well as having her own barrel racing association.


 Joey Nelson, Treasurer

Joey Nelson is a Project Control Finance Lead with Unisys Federal Systems. She and her husband, Bill, also operate two HealthSource Chiropractic clinics in Bismarck.  Joey’s specialties are corporate accounting and finance.  She has been involved with many civic and charitable organizations and has spear-headed several charitable contributions drives for a variety of causes.  She is happy to share her knowledge base and skillset with Welcome House.  She completed most of her undergraduate studies at University of St. Thomas, in St. Paul, MN, but finalized her degree at University of Mary.  Joey resides in Mandan with her husband and two children, Andi and Liam.


 Treva Beard

Treva Beard is an information technology manager at the North Dakota Department of Transportation. She has a bachelor’s degree in computer science and business administration, and a master’s in management degree, both from the University of Mary. Adept in technology, Treva is comfortable with many aspects of information technology, from large projects to records management.

An active community volunteer, Treva is past president of the Bismarck-Mandan Alumni Association, and is past president of the Association of Information Technology Professionals. She is thrilled to be involved on the Welcome House board of directors.   Treva, her husband, Bill, and two sons, Jakeb and Chase, enjoy family time on their ranch south of Menoken.  The family enjoys participating in and producing rodeo events.


 Darla Stafford

Darla Stafford is a LICSW (Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker). She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Minot and Master of Social Work from the University of Denver in Colorado.  She has practiced for many years and is employed at Sanford Health Bismarck in the outpatient mental health clinic.  She and her husband Mitch have made their home in Bismarck, North Dakota.


 Lorraine Davis

Lorraine Davis is the Founder and Executive Director of the Native American Development Center in Bismarck, ND.  She has a master’s in business administration and a master’s in accounting and financial management, CPA emphasis, with the intent to obtain a CPA certification.  She hopes to bring her entrepreneurial spirit and passion stemming from her personal experience, and knowledge of her past and current involvement in homeless and poverty coalitions, public school board, and a skill set stemming from her prior background in housing and finance to the Welcome House.

She lives in Mandan and is married with four beautiful children.  She advocates that we must prepare to live above survival so that we can ensure safety and security for the future of families.


Deb Hieb


VanVechten Crane

Rev. VanVechten Crane was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Richard and Mary Crane, in 1948. He is the second in a family of three boys and one girl.  VanVechten’s father was a banker and moved the family to Los Angeles in 1960 and then to Phoenix in 1965.  VanVechten graduated from Camelback High School in 1967.  He received his B.S. in Animal Science from Arizona State University in 1971.  VanVechten  married Jacqueline Stauffer in 1971 and they moved to Mesa, Arizona. Two sons Zachary and Jeremy were born in 1974 and 1976.

Between ‘71 and ‘79 VanVechten worked for Arizona Land and Cattle company as a management trainee, for Spreckels Sugar as a clerk, for Reynolds Metal Co. as a sawyer, then as a self-employed farrier.  In 1979 VanVechten entered Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota. VanVechten’s internship was served in Binford and McKenry, ND.  He graduated from seminary in the spring of ‘83 and began serving the Willow City/ Barton/ and Marker Lutheran parish. From 1987 ’til 1994 served First Lutheran and Bethany Lutheran Churches in Rhame. In the August of 1991 Jacqueline died.

VanVechten married Rev. Lisa Ahlness October 9, 1992. Lisa and VanVechten have three children, Carly, Amy, and Joel.  Lisa is currently serving as assistant to Bishop Mark Narum.  VanVechten began serving the Almont/ Sims Parish in the fall of 1995 and retired from there in May of 2013, he now works as a part time porter at Pucklich Chevrolet and serves as part time pastor for the St. Paul Lutheran Church of Riverdale, ND. He also practices shoeing horses when time allows.  His hobbies are training dogs, hunting, and playing classical guitar.

VanVechten has served on the Board of Directors of the Badlands Bible Club and the Global Mission Board of the Western North Dakota Synod of the ELCA.


Sue Martin
Sue is an Employment Specialist at Community Options, Inc. and helps low-income and disabled people with their employment concerns. Serving the Homelessness has been an interest and a passion of hers for many years.  Sue served as a member of the Ruth Meiers Board of Directors while working at Community Action. She served as secretary and then president of the Board of Directors for the North Dakota Coalition for Homeless People (NDCHP) and also as secretary, treasurer and president of the Board of Directors for the Missouri Valley Coalition for Homeless People (MVCHP).  Prior to working with Community Options, Inc., Sue was the Executive Director of Ruth Meiers for eight years.
Sue lives in Bismarck and enjoys spending time with her children and grandchildren. Her son (Chris) is married and has two children, Hudson and Ellery. Her daughter (Shannon) is married and has one child, a daughter Emma who is 8 months. As a long-time advocate for low-income and homeless persons, she is happy to bring her leadership and experience to the families served by Welcome House.



Kelly Gunsch Kelly Gunsch, Executive Director

Kelly Gunsch is honored to join the Welcome House as its new Executive Director.  She is a native of the Bismarck area has a bachelor’s degree in Social Behavioral Science from the University of Mary.  Kelly has extensive experience in the non-profit sector – coordinating volunteers, generating funding and developing relationships with both supporters and clients.

An active community volunteer, she is Vice President of the Bismarck Optimist Club and serves on the Board for the Association of Fundraising Professionals.  Kelly is grateful for her husband, Jesse, and their son, Dominic; as a family, they enjoy hiking, swimming and traveling and sailing at Lake Sakakawea.  She is excited to combine her love for family and experience in helping to others with the mission and critical services provided by Welcome House.


 Allett Lykins, Case Manager

Allett Lykins is happy to be a part of Welcome House.  She has a bachelor's degree in Social Work from Minot State University and is a LSW in the state of North Dakota. Allett has a background working with children in in-home care, as well as counseling and case managing youth in a residential setting. She enjoys helping clients learn the skills needed to reach their goals.

Allett and her husband, Mike, along with their young daughter enjoy being outside, doing sports and playing with their lovable springer spaniel.  She is eager to collaborate with staff and volunteers to help further Welcome House?s mission and meet the needs of families in our community.